Top of the World: Olivia de Havilland Turns 101!

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Today, the strong, lovely, talented, legendary Olivia de Havilland is turning 101 years old and we are very lucky to still have her with us! Aging gracefully, she certainly is one of the most beautiful women of that age! For the occasion, Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Laura from Phyllis Loves Classic Movies are hosting The Second Olivia de Havilland Blogathon + Eroll Flynn!

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For the occasion, I’ve decided to present you a top 10 of my most favourite Olivia de Havilland’s films! Remember, these are my personal favourites, so it’s purely subjective. I ask you to respect my choices.

Just to give you an idea, I’ve seen a total of 12 of her films so far.

Here we go!

10. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle, 1935)

I’m not THAT much a fan of this film, but I’ve decided to put it at #10 as 1- It has to be praised for the excellent performances (including Olivia’s one), 2- A Midsummer Night’s Dream remains, after all, my favourite Shakespeare play, 3- I love the magic and poetry embodied by the dreaming cinematography and 4- the two other ones I saw, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex and Santa Fe Trail left me a bit indifferent.

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9. Hush… Hush… Sweet Charlotte (Robert Aldrich, 1964)

Quite a creepy film, but I’ve always found Olivia de Havilland’s performance quite interesting as it is very different from the innocent Melanie Hamilton for example! And who would say no to a film reuniting her, Bette Davis, Joseph Cotten and Agnes Moorehead?

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8. The Proud Rebel (Michael Curtiz, 1958)

This western was the last collaboration between Curtiz and De Havilland. Somehow it’s not too well-known, but I think it deserves more recognition. It’s a beautiful film and our Livie is absolutely touching in it.

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7. My Cousin Rachel (Henry Koster, 1952)

One thing: I STILL have to read the book by Daphné du Maurier. Ok, this film contains his flaws, but it remains an appreciable one to see. Olivia is quite fascinating playing this ambiguous Rachel! Who is she really?! This film is a good way to size her versatility as an actress.

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6. The Strawberry Blonde (Raoul Walsh, 1941)

I actually just watched this movie today in honour of the celebrated one! I quite enjoyed it! It was a lot of fun. Olivia and James Cagney (such a great actor!) looked just adorable together. The presence of Rita Hayworth and Jack Carson was, of course, highly appreciated as well. A good comedy movie to watch when you feel like not concentrating too much!

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5. The Dark Mirror (Robert Siodmak, 1946)

I’ve always loved psychological movies and this one makes no exception to the rule. Playing two roles in one film never looks like an easy task, but, here, Olivia did it wonderfully. A fascinating film.

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4. The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz and William Keighley, 1938)

Of course, we all like the collaborations between Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn. This one has to be my favourite one without hesitation. Olivia is so lovely as Lady Marian and the film itself is a wonderful entertainment!

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3. The Snake Pit (Anatole Litvak, 1948)

I’ve said that I’ve always loved psychological movies. Well, this one is another great example. I love to see the evolution of the characters in these. Here, Olivia de Havilland certainly gives one of her best and more challenging performances. She received an Oscar nomination for her performance.

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2. The Heiress (William Wyler, 1949)

And happy birthday to William Wyler, who was born on July 1st too! Well, if Olivia won her second Oscar with this film, it’s not without reasons. An extraordinary performance, full of subtleties and perfectly calculated. She gives an extraordinary essence to her character and it’s hard to surpass her. I’ve loved this film since the first time I saw it. Of course, I don’t think William Wyler ever made a bad film…

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  1. Gone With the Wind (Victor Flemming, 1939)

Ok, I know, this is not a very creative #1, but what can I say? I love the film ok! There would be so much to say about it, but for what concerns Olivia, she illuminates the screen and is in perfect harmony with the rest of the cast. I couldn’t think of anyone better to portray Melanie Hamilton. This is the first film of hers I saw. What a great introduction to her filmography! 🙂

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Well, that’s it! Of course, don’t hesitate to share your choices with me!

I want to thank Crystal and Laura for hosting this amazing blogathon. Please take a look at the other entries here:

The Second Olivia de Havilland Blogathon + Errol Flynn Day 1

Happy 101 birthday dear Olivia!

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ClassicFlix (Teen Scene) – Review #24 Dames (1934)

From March 2015 to April 2017, I was writing the monthly Teen Scene column for the website ClassicFlix. My objective was to promote classic films among teenagers and young adults. Due to the establishing of a new version of the website, it’s now more difficult to access to the old version and read the reviews. But, I’m allowed to publish my reviews on my blog 30 days after they had been published on ClassicFlix! So, I decided to do so as you could have an easy access to them. If you are not a teenager, it doesn’t matter! I’m sure you can enjoy them just the same! My twenty-fourth review was for the 1934s classic Dames directed by Ray Enright and Busby Berkeley. Enjoy!

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Musicals from the 1930s are some of the most significant ones to see. Why? Because they initiated the genre into the world of cinema. The first talking picture, The Jazz Singer, was released in 1927, but the first all-talking, all singing picture was The Broadway Melody (1929), which won an Academy Award for Best Picture. Early Hollywood musicals were mainly backstage musicals, films about the creation of a musical review. A key figure of those films is Busby Berkeley, one of the most inventive choreographers in movie history and a Berkeley film nobody should miss is 1934’s Dames.

Dames creates opposition between the snobbish high society and the creative stage world. Millionaire Ezra Ounce (Hugh Herbert) believes in good American morals and visits his cousin Matilda Hemingway (ZaSu Pitts) and her husband Horace (Guy Kibbee) who lives in New-York City. Ezra has decided to will an important part of his fortune to the family, but he has to make sure they are morally good according to his principles.

Their daughter Barbara (Ruby Keeler) isn’t much thrilled by the idea as cousin Ezra decides to disinherit her love interest and 13th cousin Jimmy Higgens (Dick Powell). Ezra doesn’t approve of Higgens’ “sinful” artistic career. Ruby, to her parent’s despair, also wishes to have a career in the musical world as a dancer. Meanwhile, Horace has to deal with Mabel (Joan Blondell), a showgirl, who might endanger his status as a good moral man.

As we are not immediately introduced to Berkeley’s choreography or a song at the beginning of the film, what first grabs our attention is its hilarity. Dames isn’t only a musical, it’s a musical comedy. The film contains a bunch of dynamic comic situations that keep the spectator’s interest, such as the first scene where Horace goes to meet Ezra in his office for an appointment. He passes through several people and security measures to finally get to him. We then see during his last appointment he’s stayed only a few minutes.

Comedies in the ’30s have a touch of spontaneous humor that makes the film pleasant to watch, no matter what.

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In the same vein, the characters in Dames are well-balanced and portrayed in a way to amuse us. Some are unwittingly funny and others are on purpose which creates an interesting opposition and the serious aspects of the film are not to be taken to the first degree. As a matter of fact, they lose all credibility, in a good way.

The force of Dames‘ casting mainly resides in the supporting actors. While Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell are lovely together and easily win our sympathy, the film wouldn’t have been the same without ZaSu Pitts, Guy Kibbee, Joan Blondell, Hugh Herbert and Arthur Vinton, who plays cousin Ezra’s bodyguard. He’s always sleeping, and more than ready to fire his gun (never on someone) if he is called to duty. He is unforgettable and with his height and clumsy manners he remains one of the most underappreciated performers of the lot.

ZaSu Pitts, the queen of classic character actresses, chooses the perfect mannerisms to suit her character, a woman who worries too much. Joan Blondell, with her “pep” and self-assurance, is the perfect pre-Code figure. Guy Kibbee knows how to choose the right facial expressions and tone, most of the time a confused one, to match his character as a man who deals with several problems. Finally, Hugh Herbert, despite playing a serious character, ends up being a clown, initiated by unstoppable hiccups. It’s frankly hard to say who is Dames’ best character because they all have their own distinct personality and the actors who portray them do a highly convincing job.

Dames‘ songs are lovely and, being part of a single show, they fit well together, but might not be the most memorable ones of the 1930s. Dames’ real artistic creativity resides in Busby Berkeley’s choreographies, the most impressive being the one created for the songs “I Only Have Eyes for You” and the title number. The choreographer creates spectacular kaleidoscopes with the dancers, filmed in a bird’s eyes point of view, create a better visual effect. Each part of a musical number is introduced in a way that leaves us speechless.

The illusions are amazing and because of that Dames is a film full of surprises. Try to see Dames sequence on a big screen. The choreography is a real masterpiece and should be praised for their glamour, due to the beautiful, luminous faces of the dancers, their radiant smiles, and beautiful eyes, as well as Orry-Kelly’s lightweight costumes.

Dames is a film that doesn’t need to be watched, but needs to be lived. Let yourself be entertained by the numerous gags and mesmerized by its visual musicality.

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ClassicFlix (Teen Scene) – Review #20: Little Women (1933)

From March 2015 to April 2017, I was writing the monthly Teen Scene column for the website ClassicFlix. My objective was to promote classic films among teenagers and young adults. Due to the establishing of a new version of the website, it’s now more difficult to access to the old version and read the reviews. But, I’m allowed to publish my reviews on my blog 30 days after they had been published on ClassicFlix! So, I decided to do so as you could have an easy access to them. If you are not a teenager, it doesn’t matter! I’m sure you can enjoy them just the same! My twenty-first review was for the 1933s classic Little Women directed by George Cukor. Enjoy!

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Christmas is waiting impatiently at the door, which means hot chocolate, cookies and, of course, Christmas movies made to be watched with friends and family. The movies of this holiday season make us smile and put us in the holiday spirit. Many excellent Christmas films have been made through the ages, but my choice is George Cukor’s Little Women. It might not be the most “Chrismasy” of them all, but it represents the holiday perfectly by warming our hearts.

Little Women takes place in New England during the Civil War. It tells the times, the joys, the happiness, the friendship and the loves of the March sisters: Meg (Frances Dee): the eldest sibling and the refined one; Josephine or “Jo” (Katharine Hepburn): the tomboy whose dream is to be a celebrated writer; the timid Beth (Jean Parker): a sensible piano player; and the coquettish Amy (Joan Bennett): the youngest of them all and an artist. They live with their kind mother “Marmee” (Spring Byington) and manage to defy their solitude by being with each other. The film is mostly focused on Jo, who becomes good friends with their neighbor Theodore “Laurie” Laurence (Douglass Montgomery).

This version of Little Women, released in 1933, was the third adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s novel of the same name after the silent versions of 1917 and 1918. Little Women was well received upon release, both financially and critically and was nominated at the 1934 Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director, winning the award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

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This film was released at the perfect moment in 1933 since the United States was suffering from the Great Depression and movies like Gold Diggers of 1933 or Baby Face depicted this hard period of history in different ways. Little Women is also about a major event in the history of the USA, the American Civil War, but the film comforts its viewers. The story is full of life and makes us cry, yes, but, it also makes us smile. Little Women was made to lighten people’s hearts and gives them hope that life can be good though it’s simple. The four sisters are a delight to watch; they’re not just sisters, but also best friends. Just like people during the Great Depression the Marches aren’t rich, but they don’t need a big fortune to have a good time: friendship and family are enough for them.

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Little Women is a story about the power of generosity, first proved to us in the Christmas scene when the four girls decide to use the money Aunt March gives them as a gift to buy a present for their mother. When Christmas Day comes they decide to give their delicious breakfast as a present to a poor family who live in miserable conditions. Even though this is difficult, especially for poor Beth who salivates at the view of the popovers, they only feel better after their good actions. It’s a real life lesson for all of us.

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George Cukor does an amazing job transposing Louisa May Alcott’s characters to the screen, and their respective actors give them justice. There couldn’t be a better choice than Cukor to direct this cast. He was excellent at directing “ladies pictures” and gives them a vivid aura and strong personalities.

All the stars are excellent and deserve accolades. Katharine Hepburn stars her second film here and what a performance! Dynamic, touching, funny, the role is perfect for her. Blonde Joan Bennett proves her versatility as Amy March, a role different from the ones she later played in Fritz Lang’s films noir. Frances Dee is elegance itself as Meg March. Jean Parker is the most touching one of the lot as Beth. Spring Bryington, who plays Marmee, gives a wise performance, full of warmth. Douglass Montgomery as Laurie makes a perfect duo with Hepburn and his sense of humor is contagious. Paul Lukas makes an appearance late in the film, but his presence is much appreciated. Edna May Oliver, John Davis Lodge and Henry Stephenson have smaller roles, but they’re well chosen and remain as unforgettable as the rest.

Little Women is also much visually stunning due to the snowy landscapes and 19th-century New England architecture. Walter Plunkett’s costumes are also important to the film. (He did the costumes for Singin’ in the Rain and Gone With the Wind, another film set during the American Civil War.) For one of her dresses, Katharine Hepburn asked Plunkett to copy a dress her maternal grandmother was wearing in an old picture. Walter Plunkett also had to rapidly create a series of costumes that would hide Joan Bennett’s pregnancy at the time she was shooting.

The devotion and passion of the characters, especially Jo’s, makes you want to get up and accomplish something with your life. George Cukor’s classic is the perfect feel-good movie to watch during Christmas. It makes you realize that the most important thing during this holiday aren’t gifts, but your friends and your family. Masterpieces like Little Women are here to remind us of that.

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ClassicFlix (Teen Scene) – Review #18: Dead End (1937)

From March 2015 to April 2017, I was writing the monthly Teen Scene column for the website ClassicFlix. My objective was to promote classic films among teenagers and young adults. Due to the establishing of a new version of the website, it’s now more difficult to access to the old version and read the reviews. But, I’m allowed to publish my reviews on my blog 30 days after they had been published on ClassicFlix! So, I decided to do so as you could have an easy access to them. If you are not a teenager, it doesn’t matter! I’m sure you can enjoy them just the same! My eighteenth review was for the 1937’s classic Dead End directed by William Wyler. Enjoy!

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Known as one of Hollywood’s most prolific movie directors, William Wyler had a career that began in the ’20s and ended in the ’70s. He was a favorite of the Academy and won no less than three Best Director Oscar for his tremendous work on Mrs. Miniver, The Best Years of Our Lives and Ben-Hur. Today, Wyler is mainly remembered for Ben-Hur, but his versatility as a movie director allowed him to direct this trio, but also many masterpieces in other genres.

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Today, we’ll explore a Wyler film with a smaller budget that deserves more recognition: Dead End. Released in 1937, Dead End is an adaptation of Sidney Kingsley’s Broadway play of the same name. The screenplay is written by Lillian Hellman (who also wrote the screenplay for Wyler’s The Little Foxes) with Samuel Goldwyn producing.

Dead End reunites a stellar cast with Joel McCrea, Sylvia Sidney, Humphrey Bogart, Claire Trevor, Wendy Barrie, Allen Jenkins, Marjorie Main and the “Dead End Kids” consisting of Billy Halop (Tommy Gordon) as the head of the gang.

Dead End takes place in New-York city at the border of the East River. On the left, there are the rich people living in newly built luxury buildings; on the right, there are the poor living in deteriorated houses. On the slum side the Dead End Kids: Dippy, Angel, Spit, TB, Milty and their leader Tommy occupy the streets. Tommy’s sister, Drina (Sylvia Sidney) is discouraged by her miserable life, and is afraid Tommy might become a criminal later. It doesn’t help when “Baby Face” Martin (Humphrey Bogart) and his friend Hunk (Allen Jenkins) come back to their hometown to visit Martin’s mother that he hasn’t seen in ten years, as well as his girlfriend Francey (Claire Trevor).

Baby Face Martin is a criminal who’s killed eight people and encourages Tommy to pursue a criminal life. Dave Connell (Joel McCrea) is here to watch Baby Face Martin and make sure he won’t commit any significant crimes. Drina loves Dave, but his attention seems to be kept by the rich Kay Burton (Wendy Barrie).

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Dead End makes us realizes that Hollywood movies aren’t always glamorous. Like with Sullivan’s Travels (also starring McCrea) it shows us what real life is, a sentiment expressed by its wonderful acting performances starting with the underrated Sylvia Sidney. Sidney certainly was able to play emotional ones. There’s something so honest about her performance, which matches the mood of the film perfectly.

It’s the same with Joel McCrea. We can see he is an actor with no pretension. His character puts equilibrium to the film’s heavy atmosphere.

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Humphrey Bogart is, well, Humphrey Bogart! Whatever role he plays he will always be unique.

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The Dead End kids are a bunch without fear or pity. Thanks to them and their strong performances, we realize kids can be scary too. However, producer Samuel Goldwyn regretted hiring them for the movie, as they behaved badly on the set and damaged material.

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The rest of the cast is ace too, especially Claire Trevor and Marjorie Main. Claire appears on screen for less than five minutes, but she was brilliant enough to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Marjorie Main appears in a brief cameo as well, but is unforgettable in her terribly heartbreaking scene with Humphrey Bogart.

Dead End earned three Academy Awards nominations: Best Picture, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography and Best Actress in a Supporting role for Claire Trevor.

It’s not surprising Dead End was nominated for Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction because it is quite impressive visually. The film noir lighting goes perfectly with the film’s atmosphere. The night scenes are the most visually impressive, especially when Joel McCrea and Humphrey Bogart chase each other on the roofs of New York.

William Wyler wanted to film on location in New York City, but Goldwyn wanted it made in a studio. Even if that’s the case, we feel we are in New York. The illusion is perfect, especially with aerial shots at the beginning and the end of the film viewing the East River.

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Lillian Hellman wasn’t nominated for an Oscar, but she does a strong job. She also wrote for the stage, so it’s no wonder she was a great choice for the adaptation of Sidney Kingsley’s play.

Dead End was declared one of the ten best films of 1937 by Film Daily. Doesn’t it make you want to see it? Because if you do you won’t regret it, I’m sure!

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ClassicFlix (Teen Scene) – Review #13: All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

From March 2015 to April 2017, I was writing the monthly Teen Scene column for the website ClassicFlix. My objective was to promote classic films among teenagers and young adults. Due to the establishing of a new version of the website, it’s now more difficult to access to the old version and read the reviews. But, I’m allowed to publish my reviews on my blog 30 days after they had been published on ClassicFlix! So, I decided to do so as you could have an easy access to them. If you are not a teenager, it doesn’t matter! I’m sure you can enjoy them just the same! My thirteenth review was for the 1930’s classic All Quiet on the Western Front directed by Lewis Milestone. Enjoy!

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War movies help us understand a difficult part of history. It’s sad when we think of the fact that, if there wasn’t war, some great films wouldn’t have been made. What is even better than war movies are anti-war movies and one of the best examples is All Quiet on the Western Front directed by Lewis Milestone in 1930. Based on Erich Maria Remarque’s novel – Im Westen nichts Neues is its original title – the film stars Lew Ayres in one of his first roles, Louis Wolheim, John Wray, Arnold Lucy, Ben Alexander, Harold Goodwin, Slim Summerville and more.

All Quiet on the Western Front takes place during the First World War. Many movies about World War II and Vietnam have been made, but the Great War shouldn’t be neglected either. Other great films portraying this conflict include Lawrence of Arabia, La Grande Illusion and A Farewell to Arms.

This film has the particularity to be an American film taking place in the German army. (The novel was written by a German author.) It more precisely tells the story of young boys who, as the war starts, decide to enroll in the army to defend their country. They have been convinced by a school teacher and are very motivated, courageous and ready to fight. But when the real action starts, they discover what war really is and wonder what’s the real use of it. Paul Baumer (Lew Ayres) is the central character and spirit of the film who perfectly embodies the anti-war aspects and eventually gains the courage to protest against it.

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Before going further we have to point out the film’s only real issue – this is an American film telling the story of German soldiers with American actors portraying Germans who speak English. We can choose not to think about it, but if we do it removes some credibility. However, IMDB informs us many German were used as extras and some were real soldiers.

But outside of that issue All Quiet proves the Hollywood film industry was ready to explore the enemy front with an anti-war spirit which is what makes the film so beautiful.

All Quiet on the Western Front is a beautiful war movie, visually and narratively, with a poetic side not to be overlooked. A great example is the final scene; I won’t reveal it, all I can say is it involves a butterfly. The film’s beauty also resides in its dialogue. In one of the best scenes, soldiers discuss and wonder what war’s real use is. They understand they don’t have personal problems against the French or English. So, why should they fight for their country? Aren’t the leaders mature enough to solve their own problems without involving a bunch of innocent men?

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With his kind face and angel eyes, I can’t think of anyone better for the role of Paul Baumer, a boy of a great wisdom, then Lew Ayres. We immediately fall in love with him as soon as he is introduced to us. Slim Summerville and Louis Wolheim give some humor to the film. Without pointing them all out, one by one, all the other actors are very talented. We see them as an ensemble and it’s by being a team that they create the film’s real force; its sadness, its few moments of joy and high spirit and its beauty.

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It’s hard explaining why, but another great thing about All Quiet on the Western Front is its modernism. Even though All Quiet was made in 1930, at the beginning of the talkies, there’s something very modern about it, possibly due to the impressive visual scenes. The explosions and editing are brilliant. It’s also a timeless movie as its moral is good for any generation.

The focus on young soldiers who were once students should help teens who easily identify themselves with the characters. Though this is a predominately male picture, there are some female characters to show us the civilian side of events. One of the most touching roles is played by Beryl Mercer as Paul’s mother.

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All Quiet on the Western Front is still remembered as one of the best anti-war films ever made. During the 1931 Oscar ceremony the film was rewarded for Best Picture and Best Director, and was nominated for Best Writing and Best Cinematography.

All Quiet on the Western Front is a must see for everybody, leaving you filled with a variety of emotions and better understanding the real utility of cinema.

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